VA is testing new program to reduce veterans' wait times - We Are The Mighty
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VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Some ailing veterans can now use their federal health care benefits at CVS “MinuteClinics” to treat minor illnesses and injuries, under a pilot program announced April 18 by the Department of Veterans Affairs.


The new program, currently limited to the Phoenix area, comes three years after the VA faced allegations of chronically long wait times at its centers, including its Phoenix facility, which treats about 120,000 veterans.

The Phoenix pilot program is a test-run by VA Secretary David Shulkin who is working on a nationwide plan to reduce veterans’ wait times.

Veterans would not be bound by current restrictions under the VA’s Choice program, which limits outside care to those who have been waiting more than 30 days for an appointment or have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Instead, Phoenix VA nurses staffing the medical center’s help line will be able to refer veterans to MinuteClinics for government-paid care when “clinically appropriate.”

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
David Shulkin. (Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs)

Shulkin has made clear he’d like a broader collaboration of “integrated care” nationwide between the VA and private sector in which veterans have wider access to private doctors. But, he wants the VA to handle all scheduling and “customer service” — something that veterans groups generally support but government auditors caution could prove unwieldy and expensive.

On April 19, President Donald Trump plans to sign legislation to temporarily extend the $10 billion Choice program until its money runs out, pending the administration’s plan due out by fall. That broader plan would have to be approved by Congress.

“Our number one priority is getting veterans’ access to care when and where they need it,” said Baligh Yehia, the VA’s deputy undersecretary for health for community care. “The launch of this partnership will enable VA to provide more care for veterans in their neighborhoods.”

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., a long-time advocate of veterans’ expanded access to private care, lauded the new initiative as an “important step forward.”

“Veterans in need of routine health care services should not have to wait in line for weeks to get an appointment when they can visit community health centers like MinuteClinic to receive timely and convenient care,” he said.

Also read: 9 ways the VA says it’s joining the modern world

The Veterans Health Administration said it opted to go with a CVS partnership in Phoenix after VA officials there specifically pushed for the additional option. They cited the feedback of local veterans and the success of a smaller test run with CVS last year in Palo Alto, Calif.

Shulkin has said he wants to expand private-sector partnerships in part by looking at wait times and the particular medical needs of veterans in different communities. Successful implementation of his broader plan will depend on the support of key members of Congress such as McCain, who chairs the Armed Services Committee.

The VA did not indicate whether it received requests from other VA medical centers or how quickly it might expand the program elsewhere.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The current Choice program was developed after the 2014 scandal in Phoenix in which some veterans died, yet the program has often encountered long waits of its own. The bill being signed by Trump seeks to alleviate some of the problems by helping speed up VA payments and promote greater sharing of medical records. Shulkin also has said he wants to eliminate Choice’s 30-day, 40 mile restrictions, allowing the VA instead to determine when outside care is “clinically needed.”

Despite a heavy spotlight on its problems, the Phoenix facility still grapples with delays. Only 61 percent of veterans surveyed said they got an appointment for urgent primary care when they needed it, according to VA data.

Maureen McCarthy, the Phoenix VA’s chief of staff, welcomed the new CVS partnership but acknowledged a potential challenge in providing seamless coordination to avoid gaps in care. She said a veteran’s medical record will be shared electronically, with MinuteClinic providing visit summaries to the veteran’s VA primary care physician so that the VA can provide follow-up services if needed.

The VA previously experimented with a similar program last year in the smaller market of Palo Alto, a $330,000 pilot to provide urgent care at 14 MinuteClinics. CVS says it’s pleased the VA has opted to test out a larger market and says it’s ready to roll the program out nationally if successful.

CVS, the biggest player in pharmacy retail clinics, operates more than 1,100 of them in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

“We believe in the MinuteClinic model of care and are excited to offer our health care services as one potential solution for the Phoenix VA Health Care System and its patients,” said Tobias Barker, chief medical officer of CVS MinuteClinic.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why you shouldn’t take a cruise when you desert from the Army

Sircaria Coleman deserted her post as a U.S. Army company commander more than five years ago, but her run from the law ended when she walked onto a cruise ship dock in New Orleans this week, authorities said.


Coleman was arrested on the morning of Jan. 29 when the Carnival Triumph set sail on a five-day Caribbean cruise. While documents don’t specify whether the Shreveport native was going on the trip, cruise passengers with outstanding arrest warrants are occasionally captured when they check in for boarding.

According to authorities, Coleman posted bond on Aug. 15, 2012, following an arrest somewhere in Louisiana on unspecified allegations. She never returned to her post in Fort Carson, Colorado, and the Army issued a warrant to arrest Coleman on a charge of military desertion several months later.

Also Read: Here are a few more reasons not to be a deserter (in case you needed them)

Coleman turned 30 four days before her arrest. She was working at a cellphone dealership when she was captured, court records said.

Orleans Parish Criminal Magistrate Court Judge Harry Cantrell ordered Coleman held without bail. She waived extradition proceedings and as of Jan. 31 was awaiting to be transferred out of New Orleans.

It is not all that common for the military to prosecute charges of desertion. Only once since the Civil War has the maximum punishment for desertion during a declared war, execution, been carried out.

Five years’ imprisonment is the second-worst punishment.

Articles

These Army Drill Sergeants make Vine videos for a behind-the-scenes look at basic training

1. This is what they’re thinking when recruits arrive.

2. They encourage you to move with a sense of purpose.

3. This guy better pick that up.

4. Recruits get to know the whistle.

5. And the push-up.

6. Discipline is important.

7. It’s funny because it’s true.

8. And you thought your job was stressful.

9. The most epic selfie video ever.

10. Fix your headgear.

11. In case you wondered how the barracks got tossed.

12. Drill Sergeants are funny.

13. This platoon didn’t learn the first time.

14. Being British in the U.S. Army…

15. When the rope is the most insurmountable obstacle.

16. He wasn’t the only one.

17. Spoiler alert, he didn’t make it either.

18. This is what a platoon in the gas chamber sounds like.

19. The same platoon coming out of the chamber.

20. In case there’s a civilian wondering what getting smoked in the barracks looks like…

21. That’s a long way down.

22. In his defense, it looks way different on the commercials.

27. That time you got two tanks stuck in the mud.

28. This is why you join the Army.

29. Nothing beats being qualified to drive a tank during Basic Training.

30. Also, qualifying to fire a tank.

31. The Drill Sergeants also Vine their pranks.

32. #knifehandnation.

33. The only flowchart that ever mattered.

34. The Drill Sergeants also document graduation day.

35. It gives a good taste of what to expect in Army Basic Training.

36. That doesn’t mean the fun stops.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Frosted Misery: A Navy SEAL in SERE school

SERE — short for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape — training is one of the more psychologically challenging training courses the U.S. military has to offer. It is not really that physically challenging, other than having to overcome the short duration of enforced hunger and the occasional slaps and stress/discomfort techniques employed against the students in the course. But for a young man or woman who has never been a prisoner of some type, it is mentally jarring. Uncomfortable, even. That is where the real challenge is presented.

I won’t go deep into SERE training here, just because it is a school that should remain cloaked in some mystery for it to be truly effective as a training program, other than to share a few of the memories that stand out for me, almost 20 years after I went through it.


To be clear, I went through a SERE program run by the U.S. Navy, in the American northeast, in January, with a handful of my fellow SEALs, some Navy pilots, and a few Marines. The other service branches ran their own programs at that time, I believe, and presently, I am not sure how the program is run across the services. I am sure, though, that the training continues in some form given its perpetual relevance to service members in danger of becoming prisoners of war.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

(U.S. Air Force Photo/Airman 1st Class Peter Reft)

The goal of SERE training is to prepare U.S. service members to survive, on the run from enemy forces and while evading capture, and to resist your captors should you find yourself a prisoner. It also touches on escaping from captivity, and aims to provide guidance on how to behave and organize if you find yourself in a prisoner situation with other Americans. Enough on that for this venue.

SERE is mostly a hazy memory for me now, in terms of the particulars, but certain scenes, events, sights, and smells, continue to bubble up every once in a while. They are lingering yet occasionally vivid impressions of a long-ago tribulation, I suppose.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

(Senior Airman Jonathan Snyder, U.S. Air Force)

The Snow and the Cold

My SERE training took place in the far northeast in January. It was damn cold, especially for a Florida boy who had spent the previous year-plus in sunny San Diego and Norfolk, Virginia.

In SERE, we spent a significant chunk of time in our survival and evasion phase stumbling around in the woods, in a couple of feet of snow, with nothing but the minimal amount of gear we were supplied to keep us warm. It was not ideal. It was an enforced “pack light, freeze at night” situation. Some shared sleeping bags to stay warm, while others built shelters in the snow. We all shivered a lot.

The memory of all that snow and the bleak, wintry landscape still pops into my head occasionally, in photograph form. While it was lovely, especially to look back on now, at the time it was frosted misery.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

(USAF Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

The Hunger

Okay, let’s be honest: Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training is not hard on the stomach. At no point in the training do they try to starve you, like they do in Ranger School, for example. In fact, in BUD/S, you can eat as much food in the chow hall as you can stuff down your gullet in the allotted meal time. And boy did I stuff myself, and yet I still lost 15 pounds during BUD/S training.

In SERE training, however, there is no food offered after a certain point, and you have to eat whatever you can forage. Let me tell you, there is not much edible out there in the hell-scape of a January New England forest. So we just didn’t eat for a few days, which made me very hungry. At the end, they advised us not to go out and stuff ourselves, since our stomachs would not handle it well. I failed to heed this advice, however, and paid the man for it. It was not pretty, but I doubt I will ever forget how good that (Italian) meal tasted my first night after SERE ended.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)

The Slap

So, there is some physical discomfort inflicted on SERE students, all of which is to make it as realistic as possible. Part of the physical discomfort comes by way of open-handed slaps to the face and head. These aren’t too terrible, especially if you are ready and braced for them and they thus don’t whip your head and neck around too violently. It is really no worse, and mostly less painful, than taking a punch while sparring in the ring. I was used to the slaps by a certain point in SERE training, and ready for the men who administered them each time they approached me.

Well, in a very effective curveball thrown at me by the instructors, the details of which I will not divulge here in case this little surprise is still employed, I found myself at one point face-to-face with a woman captor whom I did not expect to hit me in the face. Needless to say, when she did in fact smack my face, at lightning speed and with some real force behind it, my entire upper body, neck, and head swiveled nearly 180 degrees. It was the most effective slap I received in the entire course, in terms of the pain and shock it caused, and kudos to that woman for catching me unawares.

Well done, madame. To this day, I still remember the surprise and the pain of that slap.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Senior Airmen Jonathan Harvey, a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialists with the 106th Rescue Wing, demonstrates how to contact friendly forces during survival training. (US Air National Guard Photos by Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy)

The Almost-Meal

As noted above, by a certain day in the survival and evasion phase of SERE training, I was pretty damn hungry and would’ve eaten just about anything I could get my hands on. At just that point in time, we were told to link up with a notional “foreign contact” in the woods who would supply us with some sustenance.

This was to simulate resistance fighters in enemy territory who might help an evading American service member. The three or four of us in our small group were so damn excited to see what we’d get, and I had visions of bread and cheese and jerky and all the food. Well, it turned out to be just one thermos of “borscht” (soup) for all of us to share. Fine, whatever, anything at that point.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amy M. Lovgren/ Released)

What happened next is frozen in my mind forever: One of our guys walking back to us from the link-up with the foreign contact, the steaming thermos of borscht in his hand, his eyes full of victory, hunger, and satisfaction. He had that same look that Ben Stiller had in one of the “Meet the Parents” movies when he arrived in triumph with the formerly-lost (and fake) Jinx the cat. Total victory.

And yet, right at that moment, the clumsy bastard tripped in the snow, fell in slow motion to the ground, and spilled the steaming thermos of life-giving soup all over the snowy ground. He then looked up in total defeat, and seemed to say with his eyes, “murder me, I deserve it.” To this day, I am not sure he was not a plant all along, in a highly effective and sick scheme to demoralize us. Oh well, we’ll never know.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

The End

Through all of SERE school, I never really went to that mental place that some go to, in which they start to believe they really are a prisoner, and that they might never get out. Apparently that happens to some, and they kind of lose it. I just went back into BUD/S mental mode, where I tune everything else out, and focus on surviving to the end, telling myself that everything ends at some point.

Still, when the end was signalled — in an admittedly moving and patriotic display orchestrated by the instructor cadre — I experienced a flood of relief. Some made audible sighs and expressions of relief, and some even cried right there in front of everyone. I was mostly happy to have finished another required training course, and excited to get some sleep in a bed that night. Mostly, though, I remember being excited to stuff my belly with that ill-advised Italian meal.

Good times.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

‘The Wall’ takes the classic sniper duel to a whole new level

It’s the classic battle between masters of the martial arts.


Snipers embody the best of stealth, reconnaissance and camouflage and are at the top of their game when it come to dispatching targets with precision from a great distance.

“One shot, one kill” is no joke.

And when it comes to the best way to combat an enemy sniper, there’s no better weapon than a good guy sniper.

But what happens when the bad guy turns the tables and the good guy becomes the hunted? That’s exactly what happens in the new film from Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions titled “The Wall.”

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and WWE superstar John Cena, “The Wall” depicts a sneak attack on a U.S. sniper team in Iraq by a diabolical enemy sharpshooter called “Juba,” played by Laith Nakli. The movie explores the psychological jiujitsu from each side as they try to outmaneuver one another in a battle where moving an inch in the wrong direction could mean certain death.

The enemy sniper from “The Wall” is loosely based on the infamous insurgent sharpshooter with the Juba nom de guerre in Iraq. The real Juba was reportedly killed by ISIS in 2013.

“The Wall” will be released in theaters May 12.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan pilots in U.S. Black Hawks are attacking Taliban fighters

Firing machine guns at Taliban fighters, reinforcing attacking ground troops, and scouting through mountainous terrain to find enemy locations are all things US-trained Afghan Air Force pilots are now doing with US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The ongoing US effort to provide anti-Taliban Afghan fighters with Black Hawks has recently been accelerated to add more aircraft on a faster timeframe, as part of a broad strategic aim to better enable Afghan forces to attack.


The first refurbished A-model Black Hawks, among the oldest in the US inventory, arrived in Kandahar in September of last year, as an initial step toward the ultimate goal of providing 159 of the helicopters to the Afghans, industry officials say.

While less equipped than the US Army’s most modern M-model Black Hawks, the older, analog A-models are currently being recapitalized and prepared for hand over to the Afghans.

Many of the Afghan pilots, now being trained by a globally-focused, US-based aerospace firm called MAG, have been flying Russian-built Mi-17s. Now, MAG is helping some Afghan pilots transition to Black Hawks as well as training new pilots for the Afghan Air Force.

“We are working on a lot of mission types. We’re helping pilots learn to fly individually, conduct air assaults and fly in conjunction with several other aircraft,” Brian Tachias, Senior Vice President for MAG, Huntsville Business Unit, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter transports soldiers from Bagram Airfield over Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 26, 2004.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vernell Hall)

The current MAG deal falls under the US Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization. Tachias said, “a team of roughly 20 MAG trainers has already flown over 500 hours with Afghan trainees.” MAG trainers, on-the-ground in Kandahar, graduated a class of Afghan trainees this month. According to current plans, Black Hawks will have replaced all Mi-17s by 2022.

Tachias added that teaching Afghan pilots to fly with night vision goggles has been a key area of emphasis in the training to prepare them for combat scenarios where visibility is more challenging. By next year, MAG intends to use UH-60 simulators to support the training.

While not armed with heavy weapons or equipped with advanced sensors, the refurbished A-model Black Hawks are outfitted with new engines and crew-served weapons. The idea is to give Afghan forces combat maneuverability, air superiority and a crucial ability to reinforce offensive operations in mountainous terrain, at high altitudes.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

An Afghan Air Force pilot receives a certificate during a UH-60 Black Hawk Aircraft Qualification Training graduation ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2017. The pilot is one of six to be the first AAF Black Hawk pilots. The first AAF Black Hawk pilots are experienced aviators coming from a Mi-17 background.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Veronica Pierce)

The MAG training effort is consistent with a broader Army strategy to arm, train, and equip Afghan forces such that they can continue to take over combat missions. In recent years, the US Army has placed a premium on operating in a supportive role wherein they train, assist and support Afghan fighters who themselves engage in combat, conduct patrols and do the majority of the fighting.

Standing up an Afghan Air Force has been a longstanding, stated Army goal for a variety of key reasons, one of which simply being that the existence of a capable Afghan air threat can not only advance war aims and enable the US to pull back some of its assets from engaging in direct combat.

While acknowledging the complexities and challenges on continued war in Afghanistan, US Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph Votel voiced this sensibility earlier this summer, stating that Afghan forces are increasingly launching offensive attacks against the Taliban.

“They are fighting and they are taking casualties, but they are also very offensive-minded, inflicting losses on the Taliban and [ISIS-Khorasan] daily, while expanding their capabilities and proficiency every day,” Votel said, according to an Army report from earlier this summer.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Failed test of Putin’s doomsday missile causes deadly explosion

A deadly explosion at a missile test site last week appears to have been caused by a failed test of a nuclear-powered cruise missile, although Russia has yet to say what its engineers were working on at the time of the blast.

Five Russian nuclear scientists were buried on Aug. 12, 2019, after they were killed in an explosion last week. Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corp., Russia’s state nuclear agency, said they were testing a nuclear-powered engine at the time the blast occurred, BBC reported.

“The rocket tests were carried out on the offshore platform,” Rosatom said in a statement over the weekend, according to Foreign Policy magazine. “After the tests were completed, the rocket fuel ignited, followed by detonation. After the explosion, several employees were thrown into the sea.”


Rosatom did not clarify what exactly went wrong during testing, saying only that “there was a confluence of factors, which often happens when testing new technologies,” according to Foreign Policy.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Burevestnik nuclear unit.

(YouTube)

The Russian defense ministry, by way of Russian state media, said earlier that only two people were killed when a liquid-propellant rocket engine blew up. The story has changed as the death toll has risen.

The scientists and engineers “tragically died while testing a new special device,” Alexey Likhachev, the head of Rosatom, said at the funeral on Aug. 12, 2019.

The men were buried in Sarov, a city known for nuclear research, Bloomberg reported, saying that experts suspect that what blew up might have been a compact nuclear reactor. Three other people were injured by the explosion at Russia’s Nyonoksa test range.

“The best thing for their memory will be our further work on the new weapons,” Likhachev said at Aug. 12, 2019’s funeral. “We are fulfilling the task of the motherland. Its security will be reliably ensured.”

US intelligence officials, The New York Times reported, believe that last week’s explosion involved a prototype of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a kind of doomsday missile that NATO refers to as SSC-X-9 Skyfall. Several experts have arrived at the same conclusion.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

This video grab shows the launch of what Russian President Vladimir Putin said was Russia’s new nuclear-powered intercontinental cruise missile.

(YouTube)

Tweeting Aug. 12, 2019, President Donald Trump referred to what he called the “failed missile explosion in Russia” as the “‘Skyfall’ explosion.”

In March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted that the missile was “invincible,” asserting that the weapon has “an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception.” But, so far, Russia has struggled to get the weapon to fly.

No country has ever fielded a nuclear-powered cruise missile, although the US briefly flirted with the idea decades ago.

“Was this stupid missile worth getting these young men killed?” Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, rhetorically asked Aug. 12, 2019, in a Foreign Policy article on the incident.

In the article, he concluded that the weapon tested last week was likely the Burevestnik and said that an escalating arms race between the US and Russia could lead to more nuclear accidents.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

9 Movies Every Marine Needs To Watch

Whether it kept them entertained in the barracks or inspired them to enlist, there are certain films that every Marine knows and loves.


Just about every Marine can quote Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket.” The same can be said of the intense courtroom scene in “A Few Good Men” that has Col. Jessup proclaiming, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Super quotable lines, great stories, or intense combat scenes are just some of the reasons why we picked the following nine films as “must-watch” for Marines. But whether you are in the Corps or a civilian, these movies shed some light on the U.S. military’s smallest service.

Here are our picks:

Taking Chance (2009)

Plot: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.

Reason to watch: While most military movies focus on battle scenes, “Taking Chance” focuses on the part often overlooked: What happens when troops lose their lives in combat. As people in the military know, the belongings are packed and shipped, the body is taken to Dover, and an escort brings them to their final resting place. Actor Kevin Bacon does a superb job of depicting the real-life story of one such escort duty, for Pfc. Chance Phelps.

Jarhead (2005)

Plot: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.

Reason to watch: While the main character is a less-than-stellar Marine who often gets in trouble, this film shines in realistically depicting infantry life. The camaraderie, the dumb games, and the sheer boredom grunts experience when they are in a combat zone but not seeing combat is what makes this worth watching.

Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

Plot: A dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

Reason to watch: It has John Wayne. Really, that should be enough. But seriously, it’s a classic war film that shows Marines battling it out on Tarawa and Iwo Jima — site of the famous flag raising in 1945 — which also includes cameos by the three Marines who raised the flag over the island that was captured in the iconic Joe Rosenthal photo.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.

Reason to watch: “Full Metal Jacket” is really two films in one, with act one depicting a realistic look at Vietnam-era boot camp, and act two showing life for Marines in the battle of Hue City. The performance Marines love — and can perfectly quote — comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Drill Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, a seemingly never ending source of great zingers.

Flags of our Fathers (2006)

Plot: The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.

Reason to watch: While most people have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, many don’t know the flag raising happened just days into the battle, when it was not yet clear when the Japanese would be defeated. Three of the six flag raisers would be killed later in the battle, while the remaining three would be brought back to the U.S. to help raise war bonds. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells that story. (You should also check out Eastwood’s telling of the Japanese side, in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).

Heartbreak Ridge (1986)

Plot: A hard-nosed, hard-living Marine gunnery sergeant clashes with his superiors and his ex-wife as he takes command of a spoiled recon platoon with a bad attitude.

Reason to watch: In the main character of Gunny Highway, Marines will see the one staple of just about every unit: The crusty old-timer who doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Clint Eastwood plays Highway, delivering such classic lines as “Be advised. I’m mean, nasty and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round in a flea’s ass at 200 meters,” and “if I were half as ugly as you, Sergeant Major, I’d be a poster boy for a prophylactic.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i2P2VzoPL0

Rules of Engagement (2000)

Plot: An attorney defends an officer on trial for ordering his troops to fire on civilians after they stormed a U.S. embassy in a third world country.

Reason to watch: Starting in Vietnam with two Marine lieutenants — played by Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson — a firefight sets them on separate career paths that ultimately see them coming back together after an embassy evacuation in Yemen goes terribly wrong. Col. Childers (played by Jackson) gives the order to fire into the crowd — which he says is armed — and he’s later charged with murder. Besides the intense courtroom drama, the movie shows the strong brotherhood among Marines, with Jones and Jackson picking up right where they left off many years before in the jungles of Vietnam.

Flying Leathernecks (1951)

Plot: Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.

Reason to watch: Again, John Wayne. Another classic from the fifties, this film gives a look at Marine air power in World War II, with Wayne playing Maj. Kirby, a gruff commander who takes over a squadron of fliers before they head into combat at Guadalcanal.

A Few Good Men (1992)

Plot: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.

Reason to watch: It’s a great courtroom drama which explores the question of what is a legal order. When two junior Marines are told to carry out a hazing ritual by their commander, should they have followed it? That’s what a court-martial is to decide, which ultimately ends in an epic shouting match between Navy Lt. Kaffee and Col. Jessup (played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson).

BONUS: Generation Kill / The Pacific

While they aren’t movies, these two HBO miniseries show Marines in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the island-hopping campaigns of World War II, respectively. In “Generation Kill,” viewers follow along with the men of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion as they battle their way into Iraq in 2003, while “The Pacific” melds together narratives from Marines who took part in the Pacific campaign to tell their story.

Articles

Why the M-60 ‘Pig’ remains one of the best US machine guns ever

Just a few feet away from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., is a life-size statue called “Three Soldiers.”


Crafted in bronze by sculptor Frederick Hart, he portrayed the men garbed in uniforms representative of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, carrying weapons of the Vietnam War era and facing the memorial wall. The man on the left, his body draped with ammo belts, carries an M-60 general purpose machine gun.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

Other than the M-16 rifle, perhaps no other firearm is as closely associated with the Vietnam War as the M-60. Portrayals of the M-60 in the hands of Vietnam War soldiers range from the sublime dignity expressed by the “Three Soldiers” statue to the over-the-top destruction of the fictional town of Hope, Washington, by Sylvester Stallone’s character, John Rambo, in the film “First Blood.”

The M-60 is a weapon that has faithfully served American soldiers in many battles since 1957. Far from perfect, the early model of the M-60 had so many design flaws that soldiers jerry-rigged fixes using everything from wire coat hangers to empty C-ration cans. The M-60 is also heavy — the machine gun weighs about 23 pounds, and those belts of ammo aren’t exactly lightweight, either.

No wonder the M-60 earned an unflattering nickname: The Pig.

But one thing is certain. Even with its flaws, a soldier armed with an M-60 can lay down a lot of lead, whether he is fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the badlands of Afghanistan.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
U.S. Marine Corps M-60 in all her glory. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

The M-60 is an air-cooled, disintegrating belt-fed, gas-operated general purpose machine gun. It fires the 7.62 mm round with a cyclic rate of about 550 rounds a minute — a rate of fire that requires the crew to change the M-60’s barrel about every minute. In addition, the M-60 has an integral, folding bipod, but it can also be mounted on a folding tripod.

The M-60 was — and is — a fixture in the U.S. armed forces, serving as a squad support weapon, vehicle-mounted machine gun and as a “flex gun” mounted in the doors of helicopters like the UH-1 Huey and the CH-47 Chinook.

Development of the M-60 started after World War II. American generals held a grudging admiration for the German MG-42, a machine gun so powerful that it was nicknamed “Hitler’s Bone Saw” by the Wehrmacht troops that fired it. The MG-42 had a blinding rate of fire and was belt fed—both qualities were considered desirable by weapons designers. The Fallschirmjägergewehr 42, or FG 42 battle rifle, also had equally desirable qualities, such as a gas-operated bolt, which were closely scrutinized by the Americans.

Ordnance experts took the best Germany had to offer and developed a prototype machine gun. Some argued it wasn’t an ideal machine gun compared to foreign models such as the FN MAG—but it could be domestically produced, which made congressmen with defense industries in their districts very happy.

In 1957, the Defense Department adopted the machine gun and dubbed it the United States Machine Gun, Caliber 7.62 mm, M60. It’s been in the arsenal ever since.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
A Navy SEAL fires an M-60 lightweight machine gun from the shoulder, because that’s how SEALs roll. (Photographer’s Mate Petty Officer 1st Class Chuck Mussi)

But the three-man crews who served the M-60 during the Vietnam War discovered the machine gun had its idiosyncrasies.

First of all, no one designing the M-60 remembered to put a wire carrying handle on the barrel. That made barrel changes an agonizing affair—in order to remove the red-hot steel, an assistant gunner was expected in the heat of battle to don asbestos gloves that looked like oven mitts. Also, ammo belts would sometimes bind in the weapon. Then, some G.I. got a brilliant idea: just lash an empty C-ration can to the left side of the receiver so the belt would flow smoothly over the curved surface.

By the 1980s, the military adopted the M-60E3, a version of the machine gun with added improvements and (most of) the bugs worked out.

Although the Defense Department ordered the phase-out of the M-60, it is still used by U.S. armed forces personnel. SEALs favor the M-60, the Navy and the Coast Guard often have it on board their ships, and Army reserve units frequently have an M-60 in the weapons room.

And 45 nations — many of them NATO or East Asia allies — continue to use the M-60 as their heavy-hitting general purpose machine gun.

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time an F-16 flyby lit up a highway patrolman’s radar

A California patrolman’s radar apparently flipped out on an empty stretch of highway in March 2019, which was odd because there wasn’t another car in sight, but then an F-16 Fighting Falcon came flying low and fast past his location.

A video taken by Officer Chris Bol and shared by California Highway Patrol station in the California desert suburb of Bishop shows the F-16 making a pass — not the first, as the officer filming has his camera ready to catch the fighter flying by his Ford Explorer.


The video, first reported by Popular Mechanics, was captioned: “When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you don’t see any cars on the road, look up!”


When the radar in your patrol car is going crazy but you …

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An F-16 can fly at speeds greater than Mach 2, more than two times the speed of sound. That means the fighter jet can hit in excess of 1,500 mph. The fighter in the video, however, was not going that fast.

These low-altitude flybys occur regularly in the area where the video was taken and are often picked up on radar. One California Highway Patrol officer at the Bishop station told Business Insider his radar once read out at more than 300 mph.

As for the video posted on March 9, 2019, Bol’s radar was going in and out, but it read 250 mph at one point. Several F-16s flew past his spot repeatedly while he was out there.

Popular Mechanics said that while the video was taken in Bishop, the aircraft in the video may have originated from the Arizona National Guard or Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, although it is hard to know for sure because there are a number of air bases nearby that use the area for training.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gunmen assault Afghan spy facility in Kabul

Gunmen have launched an attack on an Afghan intelligence training center in Kabul, officials say.

Police officer Abdul Rahman said on Aug. 16, 2018, that the attackers were holed up in a building near the compound overseen by the National Security Directorate in a western neighborhood of the Afghan capital.

He said the gunmen were shooting at the facility and it wasn’t immediately clear how many gunmen were involved in the assault.


Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai said the attackers were firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi later said three or four attackers took part in the assault and two of them were killed.

He said Afghan forces had cleared the building from the basement all to the fourth floor and were battling gunmen on the fifth floor during the early evening.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times

A rocket-propelled grenade (on the left) and RPG-7 launcher. For use, the thinner cylinder part of the rocket-propelled grenade is inserted into the muzzle of the launcher.

There was no immediate word on the number of casualties among civilians and security forces nor any immediate claim of responsibility, which comes a day after a suicide bombing in a Shi’ite area of Kabul killed 34 people and wounded 56 others.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group on Aug. 16, 2018, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has been struggling to fend off the Taliban, the Islamic State, and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Coalition launches 84 strikes against ISIS as Iraqi army squeezes Mosul

Coalition air power had a busy Veterans’ Day Weekend while attacking the Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria, also known as ISIS.


VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refuels a F-15 Strike Eagle in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Across Iraq and Syria, 84 airstrikes were carried out against the terrorist group, 27 of which were around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which Iraqi forces have been trying to liberate from ISIS since October.

The attacks took place as Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the region. Iraqi forces are moving towards the city, in an offensive expected to take months, according to a DOD News article.

“In my judgment, what Mosul does is reduce ISIL inside of Iraq back to an insurgency with terrorist actions and get them to a level where Iraqi security forces with a minimum level of outside support will be able to manage the violence inside Iraq,” Dunford said. “It denies ISIL freedom of movement and sanctuary inside Iraq.”

The terrorist group was in retreat as their eastern defenses around Mosul collapsed, and the Iraqi Army claimed to have secured the Intisar district of the city, and was moving into the neighborhood of Salaam.

As Coalition forces move in, there have been reports of increasing atrocities carried out by ISIS. According to VOA news, one video released by the terrorist group showed four children — none older than 14 — being forced to execute alleged spies. ISIS had developed “hand grenade” drones and was using them around Mosul.

In other news about the fight against ISIS, the BBC reported that ISIS carried out a half-dozen bombings around Baghdad, and a tweet from CombatAir reported that a Russian MiG-29K Fulcrum operating from the Admiral Kuznetsov was lost.

According to a Nov. 11 release, 24 air strikes were carried out by coalition forces, seven of which took place near Mosul. The Mosul-area strikes destroyed or damaged seven mortar systems, an artillery system, three vehicles, and two weapon caches. Other targets hit that day included a command and control node, oil production facilities, three supply routes, fighting positions, heavy machine guns, a storage container, and a bulldozer.

A Department of Defense release on Nov. 12 reported that five out of 23 strikes that day took place near Mosul. Those five strikes hit a fighting position; five mortar systems; two tunnel entrances; two heavy machines guns; four vehicles; a vehicle bomb; and a weapons cache. The other 18 strikes blasted a number of other targets, including a headquarters building; six oil wellheads; five fighting positions; and six ISIS “tactical units.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will use drones to seek and destroy underwater mines

The U.S. Navy plans to deploy fast, high-tech surface drones equipped with advanced wireless technology able to find, attack, and ultimately destroy underwater enemy mines, all while operating at safe distance from a larger, manned surface host ship, such as a Littoral Combat Ship, service officials said.


Naval Sea Systems Command is currently working with industry to develop, assess and analyze mine-neutralization technologies for its emerging Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV) — a multi-mission surface drone countermine platform slated to be operational by 2019. Capt. Jon Rucker, Program Manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, told reporters recently at the Surface Navy Association Symposium.

“MCM USV will ‘take the man out of the minefield’ when it comes to Navy mine countermeasures operations,” Alan Baribeau, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
A German mine swept up in Australian water by an auxiliary minesweeper visible at center right. (Image from Naval Historical Collection)

The current exploration of mine-neutralization technology is happening alongside the ongoing integration of advanced sonar mine-hunting payloads onto the USV – the AQS-20 and AQS-24, Baribeau explained.

Overall, the MCM USV represents the next-iteration of surface-drone technology, extending beyond the mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) now going through testing and builders trails, Rucker said.

“The UISS provides the Navy’s first unmanned minesweeping capability and the MCM USV with towed sonars provides the Navy unmanned volume and bottom mine hunting capability,” Baribeau said.

Textron Systems is now on contract with the Navy to integrate the AQS-20 and AQS-24, sonar payloads which will expand range and detection technology.

“UISS was foundational program that then migrated into expanding within the mine countermeasures technology,” Wayne Prender, Unmanned Systems Vice President of Control Surface Systems, Textron Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Also Read: Collision at sea sidelines US Navy mine sweeper and nuclear submarine

Building upon these efforts, the Navy is also planning for the MCM USV to incorporate an ability to “destroy” mines from USVs as well.

Neutralizing mines, once they are found, is the aim of this longer-term Navy effort to go beyond detection and succeed in destroying mines as well. As part of this effort, the Navy is now considering the Barracuda Mine Neutralization System — a technology described by a Navy solicitation as “a modular, low-cost, semi-autonomous, expendable neutralizer conforming to the A-size sonobuoy form factor.”

Navy documents further specify that Barracuda will use wireless communications, therefore allowing for a “tetherless” operation for the MCM USV. Military Aersopace electronics describes mine neutralizers as mini underwater drones armed with explosives which travel to an identified underwater mine – and then explode.

Barracuda will first be deployed from an LCS before potentially migrating to other surface or airborne platforms, Navy statements indicated.

Mine neutralization will naturally work in tandem with sonar systems which, Baribeau explained, can both send imagery data back to a host ship in real time through a line of sight connection or store sonar information for post-mission processing.

VA is testing new program to reduce veterans’ wait times
A port view of the guided missile frigate USS SAMUEL B. ROBERTS (FFG-58) in dry dock in Dubai, UAE, for temporary repairs. The frigate was damaged when it struck an Iranian naval mine while on patrol in the Persian Gulf. (Image Wikipedia)

Navy Surface Drone “Ghost Fleet”

Incremental steps forward with surface drone countermine technology is all unfolding within a broader strategic context for the Navy aimed at architecting a “ghost fleet” of interconnected, unmanned vessels able to perform missions in a synchronized fashion.

Pentagon and Navy developers are advancing this drone-fleet concept to search and destroy mines, swarm and attack enemies, deliver supplies and conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, among other things.

Swarms of small aerial drones, engineered with advanced computer algorithms, could potentially coordinate with surface and undersea vehicles as part of an integrated mission, developers have explained.

As communications and networking technologies continue to evolve rapidly, drones will increasingly be able to function in a cross-domain capacity, meaning across air, sea, land and undersea operations.

Aerial swarms, for instance, could detect an enemy surface vessel and relay information to unmanned surface vessels or undersea drones to investigate or even attack. All of this could operate in a combat circumstance while needing little or no human intervention.

The Ghost Fleet effort involves a collaborative venture between the Office of Naval Research, the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, and the Navy.

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